Melbourne’s Best Tiny Cafes & Espresso Bars

By Stephen A Russell
24th Jun 2015

We know this city runs on caffeine, but Melburnians are also a busy lot, bustling from one place to the next in such a tizz sometimes we don’t have a minute to stop and think. But not without our coffee—there ain’t never no time for that.

Luckily, the rise of the in-and-out, no fussing about espresso bar means there are a crop of great standing-room-only spots to grab your Melbourne coffee fix in a flash. Here are our favourite tiny cafes and espresso bars in Melbourne.

Black Velvet Espresso

Melbourne CBD

Darren Silverman has the tiny cafe deal down to a tee with Black Velvet Espresso’s chessboard-tiled nook, tucked to one side of a big Exhibition Street office foyer. Brewing up with a smile on his face at the street-frontage window, with a permanent picket line of clamouring workers, he even kicked off roasting his own beans on the counter a handful at a time. These days that’s done offsite. Look out for a new outpost down Spencer Street way imminently.

Cup of Truth

Melbourne CBD

If you’re on the hunt for Melbourne’s best coffee, Cup of Truth’s a good spot to start. Buried below Flinders Street Station in Campbell Arcade, which runs along the spine of Degraves Street, Cup of Truth’s Courtney Patterson is another savvy small operator. A big, burly man, he beavers away in this teeny tile-fronted tuck shop window, keeping the hurly burly of passing commuters happy with Axil beany goodness and a smattering of cake-based goodies for hungry tums.

Stand Up Cafe

Melbourne CBD

Chuck a left when you pop up out of the station and head down Flinders Street until you come to Katherine Place, the hidden location of one of the city’s newest smallest spots. Stand Up Cafe only amounts to 10 square metres, but owner Dan Chrystal has big ambitions, capitalising on the laneway’s growing popularity and already planning ahead for another hole-in-the-wall at the other end of town.

Patricia Coffee Brewers

Melbourne CBD

Working Melbourne’s ongoing obsession with sleek white-tiled walls, the caffeinated lady known as Patricia is another one of our tried and tested, go-to Melbourne espresso bars when we’re sprinting round the city. Seven Seeds alumni Bowen Holden rules the roost here and he and his team are jammed in side-by-side, powering through takeaway and on the spot sips including filter for countless suits daily.

Standing Room

Melbourne CBD

Students infamously need intravenous drip caffeine hits while cramming for exams, but Melbourne Uni graduate Thomas Kelly was pretty underwhelmed by the offerings on campus, so he decided to set up shop himself. A top notch, classy conveyer belt operation in Union House, Standing Room delivers 5 Senses coffee to the brain-fried student masses. If you’re not nose-deep in course work, don’t feel left out; he’s opened a second outpost in the gorgeous Royal Arcade off Bourke Street.

Brother Baba Budan

Melbourne CBD

Perched underneath a perfect storm of wooden chairs suspended from the ceiling, while there is a shared table and a bench, most of the trade at Little Bourke Street’s Brother Baba Budan is of the get in, get out variety. Run by the Seven Seeds guys, you can rely on a a cup of prime Melbourne coffee every time, so much so that weekend shoppers will be bulging out the door, hustling for consumer fuel.

Pellegrini’s Espresso Bar

Melbourne CBD

Of course, the idea of the espresso bar has its origins in Rome, so how could we leave out Melbourne’s nonno of the cafe scene Pellegrini's, which looks as if it’s been uprooted intact from the Italian capital and dropped near the top of Bourke Street. Join the little old guys who perch at the bar near the door for a quick sip and a chat, old school style.


Melbourne CBD

Sharing the laneway with Pellegrini’s, Traveller might be the young upstart in comparison, but owner Mark Dundon has his head screwed on right, having earned his stripes at Seven Seeds and Brother Baba Budan. An adorable wood clad interior spins a contemporary take on the old espresso bars of yore. Look out for the neon sign hanging outside.

Tom Thumb

Melbourne CBD

We love this little guy perched near the top end of Flinders Lane, ideal for a swift coffee grab before catching a movie at Kino. Tomb Thumb does have an upstairs seating area, but for the most part, you’ll see a gaggle of city slickers crowding round the bar with twin stools. Even in winter, bi-fold doors are thrown back to open the wee guy up onto the street.

Dukes Coffee Roasters

Melbourne CBD

Again, there are a couple of little tables in this beautifully Moroccan-style tiled palace with undulating wood finishes, including the cutest booth seat for two in town, but for the most part it’s a never-ending procession of takeaway lattes and short blacks from Dukes own in-house roast, with mouth-watering morsels like macarons on hand to entice.


Melbourne CBD

Right up there with Dukes in the gorge stakes, the lamp-lit, wood-panelled walls of Mario Simeone’s Sbriga might otherwise lull you into hanging around too long, but there’s nothing but a shelf to lean and a couple of sought-after stools for the lucky few while imbibing espresso Italian-style. That’s the whole point—stand, have a natter, then rush on in the animated way so favoured of Europeans.

Market Lane Coffee

Carlton & Melbourne CBD

While the Market Lane coffee gurus have a huge concrete and steel mothership in Prahran Market, there are several satellite stand-up spots, including Therry Street at Vic Market in the city and also on Carlton’s Faraday Street. Whichever spot is handiest, know that you’ll get a top-notch single-origin drop.

Clement Coffee Roasters

South Melbourne Market

Right at the heart of South Melbourne Market, Clement Coffee Roasters makes for the ideal flat white pit stop mid-grocery haul. It’s a fight to the death sometimes if you want to sit down for a mo and rest bag-wrecked hands, but really it’s about nabbing a quick perk me up to get you going and bargain ready.



Just off Greville over the crossroads from St Edmonds on Izett Street, the Cup of Truth guys behind Pardon have nothing to apologise for. Great coffee from Axil? Check. Swift service. Check. Spitting distance to the train for the work sprint? Ring a ding ding.

One Square


Occupying a little spot next to Elsternwick Station, One Square doles out espresso to morning commuters on the go, making it the perfect small stop-off for your morning caffeine hit before running for the train. You can grab tasty eats to-go too...Too easy!

Tiny Cafe


To be celebrated every bit as much for its design genius as its damn fine coffee, Phamily Kitchen’s Michael Pham literally slotted his Tiny Cafe under the stairs leading up to a creative studio on Collingwood’s Cromwell Street. A bright yellow colour scheme keeps coffee lovers smiling as they line up along the wall towards the plywood counter and sweet, heady satisfaction in a takeaway action.

Image Credit: Pardon by Emma Forster for The Urban List


Get our top stories direct to your inbox.

Get our top stories direct to your inbox.

You May Also Like